Every year I set student learning goals with my students. My first few years I had learning goals for each student but I didn’t really communicate it to my students so they could take ownership. Now I set goals with them as much as I can so they know what they are working towards.
How to Decide on the Goals
The first thing I do when deciding on what goals I will use is to evaluate where my class is at compared to the grade level standards. For example, I ask them to do a writing sample. I will use the same prompt for the writing sample throughout the year as needed. This year I asked students to write about a time they had a fun day. As a class we brainstormed different places we went that were fun and then I passed out the writing paper. I did not want to prompt students too much on what to include because I wanted a true assessment of where their writing skills were at the beginning of the school year.
Once I’ve assessed my students I look at the skills that are necessary for where I want them to be by the end of the school year. Then I take stock of where my students are at currently. I find writing to be easiest to start with. Looking at the picture above, I can decide if my student is writing complete sentences with proper punctuation.
I know when thinking about writing I want my students to have the skills needed to write a proper sentence. These skills might include:
Spaces between words
Sounding out words
After looking at student work I can make a list of which of these skills my students need. If none are needed, I think about the next steps. For myself, this would include adding details to our stories, using adjectives, developing a paragraph, and including sequence words.
Keeping Goals Manageable
My secret to keeping goals manageable is to limit my goals to things the students can easily work towards throughout each week. Within my class this means we set goals in three areas: reading, math, and writing. My reading goals are fluency based and I have a secondary goal of improving their reading level.
The reading level goal is something I test three times a year or more if necessary. Fluency goals are tested weekly using one minute timed grade level passages. The fluency goal also happens to be my student learning goal focus this year (chosen as a grade level). I also have 87% of my class below grade level in reading which means they are required to have this fluency benchmark weekly. All of this to say that fluency is already something I am monitoring weekly. Making it a known student goal and having them create a fluency graph to track their stats makes this goal manageable.
My writing goals are done as described in the previous passage. I ask my students to write daily (although they often don’t finish a piece of writing in one day). This gives me lots of opportunities to check their writing to see if they are meeting their goals. Although my students might need to work on multiple areas in writing I only pick one focus at a time. For example, writing spaces between their words might be the first goal for a student whose work I’m struggling to read. After mastery of that goal, they will be assigned a new goal.
Like with reading, I use math fluency for my math goals. I always like to start with mastery of addition before moving into subtraction. Not every teacher believes in providing timed fluency tests for math but I am one who does. Students find it fun to try to beat the clock and improve their scores. If you do not wish to use timed tests, you can still use addition and subtraction fluency but choose to assess it a different way that suits your needs.
Tracking Student Goal Progress
I have found simple systems to track student learning goals. I also release the responsibility of tracking goals to the students. Now since I teach second grade I might have to monitor that students are tracking correctly. Because the reading fluency is also part of my RTI (response to intervention) I have a personal spreadsheet I track their scores so I have one place with all the class data.
When tracking math fluency, students are given a fun coloring tracker as shown below. This comes from the TpT store Core Inspirations. The tracker is printed on cardstock and students keep it in their desks. I try to provide timed tests 2-3 times a week to keep students motivated with moving forward towards their goal of mastery. For me, they must pass the test with 100% to move on to the next set.
Writing goals are tracked using a goal sheet that is kept in their writing notebook. Students are given the current goal they are working on to paste into their sheet. When we have writing conferences we look at their goal reminder and compare it to their current writing. Then we decide if we should get a new goal or still need to work on the goal we have.
Reading fluency is monitored weekly and students are given a fluency graph to color as they come to me for testing. I provide their score immediately and show them where to color their graph. Then they return to their seat to color it in. Students return their graph to me when done and I keep it in their RTI folder. When it is complete, it gets photocopied for my records and the colored version is sent home to celebrate.
I hope this provided you with some ideas on how to get started with student learning goals. I find providing students with just a few personalized goals can help them feel empowered in their own learning. Younger students love to see their progress. Offering fun incentives is a great way to keep motivation as well. I like to enroll my class in the Pizza Hut Book-It program to earn free pizzas for their reading. A local trampoline gym has also provided me with free passes I can give students for meeting their goals.